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Here’s the latest…

September 28, 2006

Here's the latest...Today was quite a busy one, at least by European standards. In America, today would be considered a leisurely stroll in the park. Germans live a lot differently from what I’m accustomed to in the states, the lifestyle is hardly rushed or stressed, people don’t seem to be lacking the patience I see back home, and overall I sense a different spirit in the air, more of a dynamic contagious energy over a nervous sense of “go go go!”. The bistros here are always lively, most linger over lunch (often dining al fresco with a glass of wine), beer gardens are packed every night of the week, and the shops are always buzzing with stylish Germans looking for the next end of summer bargain.

We started off our day as we usually do, with breakfast and a walk in the forest. Breakfast at our small boutique hotel is a yummy buffet filled with fresh regional foods ranging from meats and cheeses to creamy yogurt with sweet berries, homemade breads, muesli, and even some edible orchids thrown in the mix. I look forward to breakfast everyday when I’m here, no longer is it a cereal bar chased with a handful of vitamins and a venti latte from Starbucks. I’m actually dining, with my husband, on a table with linens and a view of the park in the nearby square. No prep work, no clean up, just enjoying a hearty (but healthy) meal to provide me with the much needed fuel for spending the rest of the day on foot. We are 6 hours ahead here from Boston time, so my husband starts his work day a lot later than his normal 6:30 a.m., which means we spend the mornings and part of the afternoon together.

After breakfast, we spent time at the atelier of a contemporary German painter whom my husband has known for years (he had a flat directly above his atelier before we married). The artist was busily preparing for a show in the Netherlands, to be held this weekend. We spent a few hours with him, and for anyone who has ever spent time with an artist while they’re working, you know how enjoyable of an experience it can be to merely sit back and observe the process. Watching him move his thoughts directly from mind to canvas, whisking the brush around as speedily as a writer taps on keys to construct a story. A slight pause, a nod, a step back, and then resuming, transforming a once blank slate into a splendid vision that only he will ever understand fully. I’ll feature him here in the weeks to come, but I cannot today since much of his work was packaged for the show.

Here's the latest...After the studio visit, we had an appointment to view a flat since we’re looking to purchase property. We wish to have a base here as well as back in the states, and now that we’re in our thirties, we figure we better start planning for the future. It’s a better idea to own for many reasons, but one I can think of is that ultimately we can relocate here for good and maybe have a dog and most importantly, children. While viewing one flat in particular (we really liked it), I thought it would be fun to give you a sneak preview so you could see what a typical city apartment looks like here in northern Germany. This one is 100 square meters (unsure of what that is in square footage), has a brand new kitchen, woods floors throughout, tile in the kitchen, baths, and entryway, 2 bathrooms, living room, and three bedrooms, along with a balcony, an extra kitchen off the guest bedroom, and a very deep bathtub for soaking. It’s a block from the largest natural city forest (1,578 acres) in Europe, Here's the latest...Another perk, it’s located across the street from a small market and a fitness studio, a block from the Lister Turm biergarten, and nearby to many shops and eateries. It’s in the same district as our family and many of our friends, including one of my closest friends who owns a salon just minutes away. Could it be more perfect? Yes… It’s actually two units combined, one of which was formerly occupied by my husband when we were dating! What are the chances!? Of course, the unit has very special memories for us, as the history of our budding romance started the day I arrived in Germany 7 years ago to have lunch with him in his flat. We’ve been together ever since.

We’re heading off to the bank tomorrow to inquire more about purchasing it, what the APR is, down payment information, etc. This is a new process for me so I’m interested in learning. Neither of us are convinced it will work out given how banking and loans here are so much different than in the states, but it is worth investigating. We both figure it’s going to take at least a year to settle on a place and iron out the details, but it’s still working looking into. Afterall, who knows?

Living Room
Here's the latest...
Here's the latest... Kitchen (the balcony is under construction, hence the obstructed view)
Here's the latest...Entry
Here's the latest...One of the 3 bedrooms
Here's the latest...The neighborhood
Here's the latest...After viewing the apartment, we went for a long walk in the forest where I spotted a familiar sign letting dog owners know not to allow their little friends into the playground/cafe areas that are sprinkled throughout the forest. I just love the sign.

Here's the latest...Then we were off to the city center for some shopping, as we needed to purchase a handy here (cell phone). On the way, we stopped at a bakery for coffee and some amazing calorie-loaded baked goods, and as I rolled out of the bakery (I will be rolling soon enough if I continue on my bakery binge), I spotted this vintage Audi. I simply couldn’t resist snapping a photo, I thought of how many of you would love seeing it. Totally droolworthy, eh? Imagine jetting around Europe in this sweet ride? I’ve seen lots of adorable vintage cars here, from mini coopers to those 1950’s French citroens, but this one takes the cake (or strudel).

Here's the latest...In route to the handy store, I stopped by a craft store and fell in love with the pretty wrapping paper… Don’t you love the patterns? They are from Vivant, a paper company in the Netherlands.

Here's the latest...I couldn’t resist the green sheets, so I grabbed a few that I liked…
Here's the latest...Of course, we can’t play all day, so we returned to our hotel and worked throughout the afternoon and evening, popping back out for a stroll in the city tonight, where we attended a grand opening event at a new beauty store, Douglas, that is similiar to the American store Sephora, only on crack. They had entertainment on both levels, waiters walking the store serving complementary beverages (in glasses! not styrofoam!), cookies dipped in chocolate from a multi-tiered fountain, coffee, and free tubes of full-sized MAC lipstick, samples of perfume, and lots of free bath gel. Lounging on leather sofas with the beautiful people, I couldn’t help but think that grand openings here are slightly different than ones I’ve attended in the states. It was like attending an invitation-only event, and for us, mere passerbys, we enjoyed feeling like special guests. Immediately following, we grabbed dinner and headed back to the main station to catch the u-bahn back to our hotel.

Here's the latest...
Here's the latest...I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos. If they bored you to tears, please let me know. Some readers have requested that I post a taste of some local flavor while I’m over here, so hopefully this is what you’re looking for. Next week, I’ll be hitting some museums, more design stores, and providing you with a few tours of some places I’m enjoying here. In the weeks to come, expect a stroll through a few additional cities, and as always, lots of fresh finds for shopping both in person and online. Yeah! :)

See you tomorrow!

(photos from decor8, please click them for larger views)






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Sam Pickard – UK Textile Designer

September 28, 2006

Sam Pickard - UK Textile DesignerSam Pickard recently launched her first collection of textiles that are definitely worth noticing. Sam draws inspiration from the English countryside, translating the beauty there into textiles that can only be described as current, fresh, and very much alive. With a focus on floral and botanicial designs, she seeks to encapsulate the North Devon countryside into a bolt of fabric, which she accomplishes in a way that is both bold and delicate at the same time.

Whether you are looking for bespoke designs, or to shop from her current collection, contact Sam directly for information on price and purchasing.

(images from sam pickard)






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Hand (Notting Hill, London)

September 28, 2006

Hand (Notting Hill, London)Business partners Susannah Baker-Smith and Gail Arnold have great passion for all things handmade, a passion that extended beyond mere conversations between friends. Together, they launched the exquisite Notting Hill shop, Hand. Visitors describe Hand as “shopping a fabulous bazaar”, and from viewing their website, I cannot question this observation. Their ecclectic selection of items arrive to them from skilled artisians based worldwide who share Susannah and Gail’s commitment to quality craftsmanship and materials, along with originality and beauty. With a delightful array of housewares, jewelry, clothing, both vintage and contemporary, these ladies can’t help but inspire us to think more about the importance of spoiling oneself with unique hand-crafted wares.

You’re sure to like what you see at this fine store, you may even leave with a huge smile and a bag swinging in hand. Why so happy? You opted to shop for something special while supporting independent crafters. You may purchase less than at a big box store, however you own something with meaning, with value, and a quality item that will outlast most purchases at a mass retailer. Sometimes, the best retail therapy isn’t about the number of items you purchase, but the emotional experience of browsing a relaxed beautiful environment, running your fingers over smooth hand-thrown porcelain and luxurious silks, interacting with store owners who tell the stories behind their wares, taking you far from their little shop in London, opening you to an adventure around the world.

Hand (Notting Hill, London)
(images from hand – please click for larger views)






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coffee + cre8tive {sept 28 ’06}

September 28, 2006

coffee + cre8tive {sept 28 '06}

Since the beginning of time, people have tried to communicate through drawings on walls. Fast forward to the 1960’s, and east coast American cities (mainly Philly + NYC) started to show signs of a new trend – urban expressionism on walls which mostly consisted of the name of the person with spray can in hand. As pictureesque as European cities may be, there exists a historic graffiti problem here, too. Urban youth, who were once content to simply spray their names to mark their territory or that of their gang, are now creating colorful, imaginative works of art. As time marches forward, graffiti continues to grow into much more than simply spray painting a name, and certainly isn’t all about gangs, drugs, and crime… Many talented young artists use it to make a public statement, a way to express themselves. Some are selective about location and others simply are not, using private residences, government buildings, train stations, etc. to leave their mark, ruining the facades of many a beautiful building. This is where the problem lies, at least in my opinion.

As is the case for most cities worldwide, there often exists a greater need of preservation than of rebuilding, especially when a building is in good overall condition and simply needs the facade renovated (painted, cleaned, blasted, etc.) In New York and Boston, you see scaffolding on many buildings, owners work hard to preserve their precious real estate (and for good reason). In cases where buildings fall under the protection of a historical society*, the pressure to preserve a building is of upmost importance of both the owner and the city. Here in Europe, where most buildings you see date to over 150+ years old, seeing a building become a canvas for graffiti raises the blood pressure of many.

On one side, I think graffiti can be interesting and even attractive if done on the right “canvas”, but on the flipside I’m a bit upset by it, especially when the selected wall is a historical building or monument with a porous surface, like brick or stone (hard to clean). It can be quite a process (and expense) to remove it, and can result in the artist returning to leave his mark all over again.

The goal here in Hannover has always been graffiti eradication, but the reality is that it will most likely be a problem for many years to come, or until law breakers suffer more extreme penalties. Either that, or when graffiti is no longer dubbed as cool or being independant. But I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

As someone who works hard to create positive and aethetically pleasing interiors, I am bothered when buildings aren’t shown due respect. A defaced building looks lonely, unloved, and messy. So many great minds poured their energy and resources into a structure, only to have the facade ruined by a stranger calling their creation art, giving a crime a dose of prestige. Placing the moral bit aside however, when a great display of creativity is shown, either through color, detail, or the expression of social and economic issues, I can’t deny that graffiti is somewhat appealing and of interest to me if in a designated area, perhaps a section of town that is otherwise boring and ugly (an overpass or near train tracks). A city could even designate a zone especially for graffiti artists to do their thing. I think that would be fair. Question is, where to draw the line?

Since we talk a lot about design here, I wondered if you cared to explore this topic a bit with me. What is your position on graffiti?

* In Germany the protection of historical buildings, districts and monuments is the responsibility of the states.

(image from decor8)






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Lisa Stickley

September 27, 2006

Lisa StickleyI first heard about Lisa Stickley some time ago, but only recently did I have a chance to view her wares and learn about her online store, where she offers her newly expanded line to include zippered pouches, totes, laundry bags, and other useful goods. Lisa takes traditional English imagery and breathes her flirty style onto a solid background (mostly crisp white) adding a dollop of color and lots of charm. Her prices are very affordable, and you can purchase them all online right here.

Enjoy!

Lisa Stickley
(images from lisa stickley)






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Help!

September 27, 2006

Help!

I was out and about today and spotted this… Anyone know the artist? I’ve seen this work in several design magazines and books, in various sizes, a collage of images with a single bloom (red/green) always at the focal point. However, I’m not able to recall who the artist is. Can someone help me?






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